Katie: I first heard of Blue Planet Network when I read about Blue Planet Run, a worldwide 95-day relay run that started with 20 elite runners who traversed 16 countries to raise awareness of the global safe drinking water crisis. As an endurance athlete myself, I understood the call to action and wanted to partner with Blue Planet Network to find innovative ways to raise awareness and funds for thousands of people who needed safe drinking water. It was cool to see how Blue Planet Network connected endurance feats to help people get water. So I set off from Senegal, Africa to Guyana, South America for a solo row across the Atlantic Ocean in 2010. That was one of my first big campaigns to support water projects. That was my Row for Water.
Blue Planet Network also has supported Katie's "Schools for Water" program where she inspires students to raise funds for water projects.
Katie: I found out about ocean rowing and Blue Planet Network when I was about 19, so it took me about two years of training, planning, and fundraising doing all sorts of grass roots fundraising, connecting with schools, Rotary Clubs and communities. There's a lot more that went into it than rowing. It showed. There was over $100,000 raised during that and it really shows how much we can accomplish when everybody does their small part.
Katie: The row for water was a solo row across the Atlantic Ocean. I set off on a 19ft rowboat from West Africa and rowed three thousand miles all the way to Guyana, South America and became the youngest person in the world to do that solo.
Katie: Absolutely, that's the irony of it. I was surrounded by hundreds of miles of water and open ocean, but even out there I recognized how vulnerable I was to water and how I relied on a little desalinator that ran on solar energy. I was surrounded by water and yet I couldn’t drink the salt water; there's some irony in that.
Katie: Another cool thing about connecting with Blue Planet Network is the ability to pick projects all around the world, so a large chunk of it went to help schools in Kenya with an organization called Aqua Clara International. Some projects in Central America were also supported from the $100,000 that we raised.
Through Blue Planet Network, Katie partnered with Aqua Clara International to raise funds in eleven schools for projects in Kenya.
Katie: Well, when I first learned about the water crisis, I knew that it would be difficult for friends and family who hadn’t traveled to understand how big this problem is. In theory you know that water is important; it’s important for the health for the environment, for education, but unless you see it, it’s so easy to forget.
I really get excited because Blue Planet Network tells that story and brings it to life. And instead of giving a donation and never knowing where that donation really goes, there is a follow up, there is transparency, there are pictures, there are impact reports, and there are always ways to connect. There are ways to visit the projects, to form pen pal relationships with schools. It’s that next step that makes getting involved in projects that much more personal.
People want to know and want to invest in that relationship! That is what is invaluable and that is what people are looking for. It’s the connection, the understanding and the feeling to know that your contribution really does make a difference.
Katie: Absolutely, I think one of the most exciting parts is seeing those pictures. While I was in Kenya, I also had the opportunity to take pictures and videos, and posted that on the platform so people can see what I learned and what that experience was like for me.